BOSTON – The Buffalo Sabres team that will take the ice Thursday at TD Garden is much different than the one the Boston Bruins beat four times in six tries last season.
In an effort to improve their toughness and physical play, the Sabres added forwards Steve Ott and John Scott during the offseason. Plenty was written and discussed about how the Sabres did not respond last season when Boston forward Milan Lucic ran into Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller during a Nov. 12 contest.
To Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, last year was last year, and he’s more concerned with his team doing what it needs to end a four-game losing streak. That includes his team exercising its newfound physicality as part of an all-round game.
“You try to win the puck battles. You try to win the territorial battles. We have to win a game,” Ruff said after his team’s morning skate. “Not coming out of here with points is not being successful. We need points. In a short season you need points. We’ve answered the physical challenge. We’ve been there for each other from Day One in this. And we’ve played a gritty style, we’ve played a hitting style. We have to win games.
“We dealt with last year. We had a game where [Paul] Gaustad fought with Lucic. [Robyn] Regehr fought [Zdeno] Chara. We played a couple great games against them and came away with points. Hockey’s about winning the game. It’s about winning the mental battle, but winning the physical battle. It’s about winning the territorial battle. If you win those, you give yourself a chance to win.”
In Ott, the Sabres have the perfect foil for the Bruins. His rivalry with Boston goes back to a 2008 fight-filled game between the Dallas Stars and Boston, which featured Ott being ejected. In February 2011, Ott and Boston center Gregory Campbell fought one second into a game to settle a grudge from their junior careers.
Ott doesn’t plan on going out of his way to do more than just what it takes to make up some ground on Buffalo’s Northeast Division rivals.
“Team toughness is within. You don’t have to go out there and drop the gloves every five minutes to prove how tough you are,” Ott said. “I think toughness comes from the locker room. Every guy in here, when you have each other’s back and you play a tough team to play against, I think that’s where you bring your team toughness. And I think that’s more where the focus is, and winning the game.”
Although Claude Julien attributed it to Chris Bourque’s struggles through the Bruins’ first six games, the Bruins coach revealed he will insert of tough guy Lane MacDermid for his season debut in place of Bourque. Rugged defenseman Adam McQuaid is also scheduled to be back in Boston’s lineup.
Here are the projected lineups:
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille – Chris Kelly – Rich Peverley
Lane MacDermid – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara – Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg – Doug Hamilton
Andrew Ference – Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Aaron Johnson, Chris Bourque
Thomas Vanek – Cody Hodgson – Jason Pominville
Steve Ott – Tyler Ennis – Drew Stafford
Marcus Foligno – Mikhail Grigorenko – Jochen Hecht
John Scott – Matt Ellis – Nathan Gerbe
Mike Weber – Andrej Sekera
Alexander Sulzer – Christian Ehrhoff
Jordan Leopold – Tyler Myers
Scratches: T.J. Brennan
Injured: Robyn Regehr, Patrick Kaleta